This week we acknowledge acceptance, inclusion and diversity. We have built on what has been traditionally known as Harmony Day, to promote a school community where all girls thrive together and understand that individual characteristics make us ‘unique’ and not ‘different’ in a negative way.
Why is it important to build a culture of acceptance and inclusion in schools? Research states that fostering inclusion and awareness in education and teaching benefits all students. Not only does creating greater multicultural awareness and inclusion help students with different backgrounds succeed, but it encourages acceptance, and helps prepare students to thrive in a diverse world.
Research also states that the presence of diversity in the classroom allows students to consider perspectives and opinions beyond those they’ve already formed or were shaped early in life. By presenting students with viewpoints different from their own, it gives them the opportunity to think critically about their own beliefs and examine the world in fresh ways.
Connectedness is something we value strongly at Girls Grammar and can be represented by our students’ sense of belonging. These feelings of ‘belonging’ in school are the degree to which students feel respected, accepted and supported by teachers and peers. This in turn is linked to students’ attention, and effort in class, their persistence and completion of learning activities.
According to international research, when students feel they’re part of a school community, through ‘connection’ such as those that we foster at Girls Grammar, they will actively engage in academic and non-academic activities. Research shows students who report a high sense of acceptance and belonging in school generally put in more effort and are more motivated.
During my address at this week’s assembly I played two clips from the film Wonder. This film was originally published as a book in 2012 and has sold more than eight million copies worldwide. It tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy born with a rare genetic facial deformity who enters the fifth grade after being home schooled.
As the students watched, I encouraged them to reflect on the characters and asked them; How do they interact with Auggie? Are they all kind and inclusive? Are they tolerant of Auggie’s different looks and schooling background? Are his peers unkind and do they laugh at him when he asks a question or do they accept his lack of understanding and reply with kindness? Do they make a point of highlighting Auggie’s differences in a way that makes him feel excluded?
I spoke to the secondary students about how acceptance isn’t something you can do to or give someone, it is a feeling that develops inside of us when we truly feel like we belong regardless of our circumstances, looks or beliefs. I challenged and encouraged them to think about how they engage with those people around them and to reflect on not just how it might make them feel, but how it makes the other person feel too.
The final scene from Wonder show cases how acceptance and inclusion can change not only someone else’s life, but our own. I asked the girls to keep the emotions and feelings that are portrayed in mind the next time they might be in a situation where they choose to accept or include someone in a group task or social situation where others around them may be unkind or excluding them.
Why has the book sold so many copies, why was the film such a success and why did I refer to it during my address during the week we acknowledge acceptance, inclusion and diversity? Its message is simple and is one everyone can relate to - the importance of kindness, tolerance and acceptance.
As Principal Tushman states in his speech at the conclusion of the film, “Good works come in many forms. Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength. He or she is the greatest who’s strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his or her own.”
Deputy Principal - Students